Beware the jingle truck. That's what we learned when Anderson, photographer Phil Littleton and I spent the day on patrol with members of the 10th Mountain Division on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Jingle trucks are flat-bed vehicles about the size of a U-Haul truck, painted with intricate patterns and bright colors. They get their name from the thousands of chimes that dangle and ring from base of the vehicle whenever it moves.
The trucks come down from the high mountain passes that separate the two countries and have traditionally carried mostly firewood to sell local markets. But during these days of war, they're sometimes carrying something different -- U.S. troops have lately found smuggled rockets buried in the firewood.
The recent discoveries are prompting something of a new policy for the troops here. When units are on patrol, they stop and inspect nearly every jingle truck that passes.
It's really a striking sight -- young soldiers with M-16s and high-tech gear talking to talk to grizzled, bearded men traveling in their colorful trucks on old silk routes.
We stood by and watched as translators explained to drivers why they and their trucks were being searched. None of them seemed to mind. They climbed down from their cabs and emptied their pockets and were frisked. Their trucks sat idle as the wind rang the chimes and soldiers pulled back wood and looked for missiles.
Of the half dozen or so trucks we saw inspected today, none carried weapons. You can't fault the soldiers here for conducting the searches. They're sustaining casualties in war against a tough and clever enemy.
Some of them told us the hardest part about this war is not knowing who exactly is the enemy. The village elder who invited you into his home yesterday might shoot at you today, they said. You have to be aware of everything, even jingle trucks.